For lots of reasons, some of which I articulate here, 2012 feels like it’s shaping up to be a critical year in the conversation about schools. Politics and money are no doubt driving the mainstream conversation, but I sense an Occupy Wall Street-ish push back coming from a lot of parents and educators that seems to be finding some traction as well. In fact I’ve had some interesting conversations of late with some very “successful” public schools who have hit their testing boiling point and are starting to resist the status quo. As this year starts, I’m actually feeling a bit optimistic for the first time in a long time. Not optimistic that change will come any time soon. Not optimistic that we’ll adequately deal with the poverty problem that is a the root of so much about what is wrong with this country and its education system. But instead, optimistic that we might at least be on the verge of gaining a voice in the larger conversation around real equality in education, equality that in some part stands on regular, dependable access to technology and the Web.
Given that window, we need schools that are bold in their practice right now. And by “bold” I mean schools that make sure their kids pass the test and get “college ready” because, unfortunately, that’s about the only definition of “success” that people want to talk about right now, but also schools that prepare their kids for a world that the tests and the definitions of “readiness” or “achievement” haven’t caught up to yet. A world that I think is so wonderfully articulated by the National Council Teachers of English 21st Century literacies that I keep trotting out wherever I go. In other words, bold schools are the ones that do both, because to do anything less at the moment would not serve our students in the ways they need to be served. Equally important, bold schools are the ones that know that those two outcomes are not mutually exclusive. You look at SLA or High Tech High and you see that creating student-centered, inquiry-based, technology-rich learning opportunities in our classrooms can help kids navigate the world they live in AND pass the test.
What a concept.
To that end, I’ve decided to dust off my journalism degree this year and do some “real” reporting and writing about those schools that are being “bold” in that context. As much as my travels will allow for side trips and site visits and interviews of teachers and students and leaders in those spaces, I want to really wrap my brain around what’s special and replicable about those schools and share them back out. Who knows, there may be a book in it as well.
Along the way, I’d like your help, if you’re so inclined. And my first request is to help me identify some schools that I might visit. But one caveat: I want these to be entire schools where that type of boldness is being displayed, not isolated classrooms or teachers. I’m looking for places where there has been a commitment as a school community to the best of what a progressive education can offer along with an immersion in technology and connectedness to the world. Schools whose teachers and whose graduates are literate by NCTE standards. And schools that are advocating in their communities for this different path. These schools can be public or private and anywhere in the world.
Any come to mind? If so, please note them in the comments.
At some point in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be asking you to help me flesh out in more detail the characteristics of bold schools. I’m hoping to have lots of these conversations at SLA during Educon in a few weeks. I’m sure I’ll be picking a lot of people’s brains while there.
Regardless, my sincerest wish for you to set a powerful path for your work and learning this year. As someone who may or may not be Goethe once said:
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Let’s be bold this year.